WHAS in Louisville, Ky., is celebrating Black History Month with Moments That Matter, a series of interviews with 28 people in the area revealing the city’s problematic history.
WHAS, Tegna’s ABC affiliate in Louisville, Ky., is celebrating Black History Month by interviewing people in the Louisville and Southern Indiana area whose stories reveals pieces of the city’s history, warts and all.
“We wanted it to be about us, our history, our community,” says Julie Wolfe, WHAS’ news director. “I have learned so much about the impact of Black history in our city.”
The idea of finding and interviewing 28 people in Louisville for the station’s series, Moments That Matter: Black History, began during a newsroom brainstorming session on Zoom that turned up so many good ideas, the thought was they could do a story every day during February.
And that’s exactly what they did.
In previous years during Black History Month, the station aired a “few pieces over the 28 days, maybe one good piece a week,” says Sherlene Shanklin, the newsroom’s assignment editor.
“It was only fitting for us to attempt to do 28 days in the state where Abraham Lincoln was born,” Shanklin says.
Finding the resources to devote to the Moments That Matter project wasn’t easy during the February ratings period, a time when local TV newsrooms are writing and producing special reports in addition to covering the news of the day.
“You make time for things that are important,” Wolfe says. “This is important right now for us and our community.”
Shanklin says more recent history has underscored the importance of the subject. “You have got to remember that we are in Louisville, Ky.,” she says. “This is where the Breonna Taylor incident happened.”
Shanklin is referring to the death in March of 2020, when Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville police officers during a botched raid on her apartment. Taylor’s death set off racial justice protests in Louisville and across the country.
“I live in this community,” Shanklin says. “I see these people every day.”
Shanklin wants everyone to understand that what the series is trying to do is “teach a history lesson. I specifically have everybody putting in the schools that they attended. You will hear many of the people in our stories say they attended Central High School or Lincoln Institute. Those are the only two schools that allowed African Americans to attend back when Day Law was in effect.
(The Day Law, An Act to Prohibit White and Colored Persons from Attending the Same School, was signed into law in Kentucky in 1904. The Day Law became illegal upon the Supreme Court’s decision in 1954 in the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka).
“We do a history lesson on both of those schools letting you know that Muhammad Ali attended Central High School,” she says. “I am afraid that a lot of this history will be lost in our communities. So those things are very important.”
Wolfe says Moments That Matter is a celebration of “people who overcame some really incredible odds.” But she adds the pieces “are also a reckoning because there are also some really difficult things in these pieces that happened in our community, and you really come face to face with them.”
The series is getting a heavy promotional push, Wolfe says, and the stories are airing three times a day in various newscasts. The station has also created a YouTube playlist “so that once you see one, you are going to want to see the next one, and the next one and the next one,” she says. “At the end of February, we will have this whole library of stories. We want it to be really clear to our viewers that we are doing this.”
Shanklin adds, “These 28 days gives us an opportunity to showcase what the station has to offer, and we are putting our time and our talent into each one of these pieces.”
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